Australia Part VI - Melbourne
21/05/11 - 03/07/11
HelpX'ing to the north of Melbourne in a place called St Andrews. At less than 200km away, this was just on the doorstep!
We were a bit trepidatious about the stay as the HelpX hosts were from the UK - a first for us - but their reviews were glowing so we went for it. We found the lady of the house - Tiana - in the front garden where she welcomed us with a big hug... good start! After a brief tour, took us inside for a cup of tea and meet the family.
The house was located on top of a hill on the outskirts of the quiet but pleasant village of St Andrews. Weekends would see a quirky - and frankly rather hippy - market. Luckily the hippies in these parts like good coffee and pastries so it was all good.
Katy made the most of it and as usual ran nearly every day, masochistically enjoying the final push up the hill.
The place was idyllic. But it had not always been so. A couple of years previously the surrounding area suffered a terrible fire of which we were only vaguely aware at the time back in the UK.
They talked about how things were back then which I don't think we need to repeat here, but the effect of the fires was clearly significant for many people.
The HelpXing side was good. There was plenty to do and we were able to see some things through from start to finish which is always nice. First brownie points were scored by Tim fixing a water pump that was presumed dead, then fixing a brand new strimmer / weed whipper which was also thought kaput (after a previous HelpXer ran it without two-stroke oil). Brownie points were later lost for breaking three axe handles before investing in a carbon handle.
With Stuart sufficiently recovered, he returned to work. They owned a restaurant - Sushi Wushi - in the nearby town of Eltham. Consequently we were very lucky to get some amazing sushi and miso soup for lunch on some days which was exquisite. We were also treated to a night out at the restaurant too.
Katy was able to help Tiana's friend, Corn, when the horse dentist came to check the horses teeth. afterward, Corn showed Katy how the whole 'natural horsemanship' approach worked - I think she had fun.
We haven't yet mentioned how enormously funny the Machins were. When they started their banter it was hysterical and I had to do a double-take when Tiana first used the 'c' word... Most of the time she was very well spoken which made it so much funnier when she swore like a trooper (think 'Catherine Tate's old lady sketch'). There was something very comforting about spending time with some Brits after such a long time away.
we managed to fit in a couple of trips into Melbourne which unfortunately coincided with cold, blustery wet weather. Not conditions to fully appreciate what is a lovely city. But don't just take our word for it.
Chickens aside, Katy would be in the house helping Tiana clear-up in the aftermath of wherever Harry went! Crumbs in the kitchen, bricks in the lounge... and where is that bloody remote control? This also meant cooking; we were treated to creamy risotto, delicious carrot cake and luckily the extra eggs also resulted in more than one lemon meringue pie... happy days.
By now Harry had had his leg plaster removed, but it was quite funny to watch as he was still walking as if it were still there. He was such a great little character and like most children had that uncanny knack of doing the exact thing you don't want him to; with that and the recently fixed leg, Tiana was in a state of constant high-alert whenever he was awake.
The times when he was at nursery she could relax and whenever she could manage it, would be out with her horses. We were largely ignorant of the natural horsemanship thing before arriving but it was very interesting to watch her work with the horses. Luckily, Katy was able to go riding with Tiana and friends a couple of times. Tim was in the shed.
During one of the bouts of heavy rain which were becoming more of a feature, Tim noticed water overflowing from one of the gutters, so this became his next task: cleaning out all of the debris from the - it turns out - many gutters. It transpires that he is indeed 'half useful'.
Around this time, we had an unexpected email from the Bourkshire Batys asking if we fancied going snowboarding. We didn't take much convincing! We had previously discussed between ourselves how good it would be to go snowboarding but had already come to the conclusion that it was beyond our means, but Kylie can be very persuasive!
And so it was that we were soon driving back past Benalla to meet up in the small town of Bright, with the lovely and excited Baty family (none of the children had ever touched snow before!). We loaded into the bus and wound up the mountain, along heavily wooded switchback roads. We eventually reached that exciting point: the snowline! On and on in more and more snow until we were finally in Hotham village. Kylie had rented a lovely apartment so after moving in, we got kitted out at the rental shop ready for the next day. That night we celebrated Bec's birthday with cake. Happy days!
Next day: military operation: breakfast, kit up, sweating like a pig, head to bus stop, much apprehension, on bus, off bus, find instructor and... relax.
Katy and I watched on with Jack whilst the Batys had their first ever ski lesson with a lovely young instructor. They all took to it straight away; really, much better than we could've dreamed. And Jack was great, he had a great little red sledge which he was just happy to sit in and take it all in. After lessons and lunch, we took them back out for a bit more practice and before long we were heading for their first draglift! They managed it really well but secretly we were more thankful that we managed too (... its been a while!). First day done with tired smiles!
Day two and the kids were eventually dragged away from cartoons on TV for more lessons (after tracking down missing gloves, helmets etc), this time a different snow field. Kylie went for a seperate lesson whilst we stayed with the young ones noticing improvements every time they came flying down the hill.
And before we knew it we were packing our bags, boarding a bus and heading back down below the snowline. We stayed in a motel and headed to Glenrowan - a place familiar to many Australians as it was the home to the showdown between Ned Kelly ("notorius outlaw") and the police. Consequently the place is filled with museums, monuments, memorabilia and many a tawdry gift shop. Hope you've still got the porcelain dog Joe! And Kylie should be eternally grateful that we didn't include THAT photo in the blog!
The following morning, we said what we were pretty sure was our final -tearful- goodbyes to the Batys (for this trip anyway). Thank you once again for everything guys.
We headed back to St Andrews, where - after a couple of days - it was time to pack up there too...the clock was ticking once again and we had thousands of kilometres still to go. St Andrews was not an easy place to leave. We feel we've been so lucky with this whole HelpX thing. The Machins were an utter delight, their home was lovely... and did I mention the sushi?! Tim, of course, still misses the shed.